Weight Training Exercise for Women

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Strength or resistance exercises are important for maintaining women’s health as time progresses. Strength training includes all exercises that make your muscles exert force against an object like free weights. More and more women are expressing an interest in weight training exercise for women. Besides toning the body and increasing endurance and muscle strength, strength training also helps combat osteoporosis in women.

Myths About Resistance Training
There are many myths that exist about resistance training for women. Many women mistakenly believe for example, that weight training will result in large, bulky muscles. This is not the case. Most women would have a very hard time producing large, bulky muscles by strength training alone. The pictures you see of bodybuilders are the exception to the rule, but most women bodybuilders strength train ten times as much as the ordinary women. Many also take supplements to increase their muscle mass.

Some women also believe that strength training is not necessary if they engage in routine cardiovascular exercise. While aerobic exercise is best for conditioning the heart and maintaining a woman’s metabolism, strength training is necessary for building strong bones. Women are more susceptible to diseases of the bone including brittle bones or osteoporosis as they age. While proper intake of calcium can help overcome this problem strength training is just as important if not more important to help preserve bone density over time.

Benefits of Weight Training For Women
Weight training for women has many benefits. Among the more common benefits reported include:

  • Improved strength and endurance.
  • Increased muscle tone.
  • Improved weight loss due to higher metabolism from increased muscle mass.
  • Improved bone density and ligament strength.
  • Better coordination and balance.
  • Improved circulation.

Step-by-Step Instructions For Starting A Strength Training Routine
Before beginning any weight training program it is important you stretch the muscles and ligaments in your body. This will help prevent injury. There are certain techniques you need to adopt to protect yourself when strength training. Here are some considerations that will help you develop a safe and effective strength training routine:

1. Remember you must align your body properly while strength training. If you are not certain how to use a machine or weight, consult a personal trainer or gym instructor. Generally while performing standing exercises, you should keep your feet shoulder width apart. Your knees should remain slightly bent.

2. Remember to move weights slowly. You should be in control of all movements. If you have to jerk the weight up and then down, you are lifting too much weight.

3. Slowly raise the weight on a count of 4, then lower using a count of 4. Never lower a weight too rapidly as this is much less efficient than lowering slowly.

4. If you plan to tone and build muscle, you should consider doing two to three sets on each weight with 8-12 repetitions for each set.

5. Exercise one body zone at a time. For example, on Mondays you can strength train your upper body, including your arms, chest and shoulders. Then on Wednesdays you can rotate and exercise your lower body, including your quadriceps, calf’s and buttocks.

Remember, as with any exercise program it is important you take things slowly. Start out using light weights then gradually move on to heavier weights. You should expect a little muscle soreness, but not so much you are not able to function properly the next day. You should take two days off at minimum between strength training muscle groups. So, if you strength train your upper body on Monday, consider working them again on Friday. In between you can work other areas of the body or perform cardiovascular exercise. This allows your body ample time to recover.

Strength Training and Osteoporosis Connection
Resistance training is also important for improving muscle strength and decreasing a woman’s risk of developing osteoporosis. Strength training improves bone density and strength. This in turn may decrease the likelihood of a fracture even in women with less dense bones.

Most doctors recommend a moderate to high level of intensity if using strength training to combat osteoporosis. At this level, bone mineral density will increase.

Weight bearing exercises also help combat osteoporosis. These include walking, jogging or funning and stair climbing, where your body weight directly impacts the bones supporting your body. If you are just starting a weight bearing routine you should strive to walk at least a mile every day.

Strength training exercises that are beneficial for women include:

  • Use of free weights
  • Weight machines
  • Resistance bands
  • Water exercise which produces natural resistance and strengthening

Typically between two and four weight training sessions every week are enough to significantly change bone density in a positive way. Remember, strength training is good for you. It won’t bulk you up and make you look like a man unless that is your specific intent going into a strength training program. You stand to gain multiple benefits by strength training, so why not embark on a resistance program today?